2014 CFN Preview - Texas State Bobcats
Texas State QB Tyler Jones
Texas State QB Tyler Jones
Posted May 30, 2014

CollegeFootballNews.com Preview 2014 - It takes a while to build up a program, but Texas State is coming along. (Getty Images)

Texas State Bobcats

Preview 2014 

- 2013 Texas State Preview
- 2014 Texas State Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players
- VOD: College football breakdowns on Campus Insiders
Head coach: Dennis Franchione
6th year: 29-29
29th year overall: 203-121-2
Returning Lettermen
Off: 22, Def. 21. ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 29
Ten Best Bobcat Players
1. LB Michael Orakpo, Sr.
2. LB David Mayo, Sr.
3. RB Robert Lowe, Jr.
4. QB Tyler Jones, Soph.
5. OT Adrian Bellard, Jr.
6. CB Craig Mager, Sr.
7. P Will Johnson, Sr.
8. TE Bradley Miller, Sr.
9. PK Jason Dann, Sr.
6. DE Michael Odiari, Sr.
2014 Schedule

Aug. 30 Prairie View A&M
Sep. 13 Navy
Sep. 20 at Illinois
Sep. 27 at Tulsa
Oct. 4 Idaho
Oct. 14 Louisiana-Lafayette
Oct. 25 at ULM
Nov. 1 at New Mexico State
Nov. 8 Georgia Southern
Nov. 15 at South Alabama
Nov. 20 Arkansas State
Nov. 29 at Georgia State

It takes a while to build up a college football program, but Dennis Franchione is quickly turning Texas State into something that bears watching over the next few seasons.

The Bobcats announced their arrival up to the next level in the 2012 opener with a dominant 30-13 win over Houston, but only one three games the rest of the way, all against miserable teams. There were signs of good things to come, but the program just didn't have enough FBS talents and depth to do anything consistent. In 2013, Franchione took things the proverbial next step forward.

It wasn't just that TXST won two more games in 2013; the team played a lot better and was more competitive.

The offense wasn't quite as good and wasn't quite as sharp, hitting a big lull at times against the better Sun Belt teams, but the defense improved a wee bit, at least up until a rough final three games giving up 118 points in three losses. But again, everything is building, and going 6-6 with good wins over Wyoming and South Alabama, while not blowing the two-foot putts against the weak teams on the slate, was a major positive. So now what can Franchione and the Bobcats do to be even more of a player?

The biggest issue is going to be finding decent depth to rely on game in and game out. Six JUCO transfers can help a little bit, and the coaching staff will rely on the latest recruiting class to grow up quickly, but with just four starters returning on defense, it could be rocky for a little while before the right players are in the correct spots. Fortunately, the offense that took a dip in 2013 should come out roaring this year.

After failing and flailing way too often, finishing 111th in the nation in total offense, there's a chance to be far, far better with nine starters back with a good line that knows how to operate the spread attack, and with veterans in the backfield who know what they're doing now.

Even with everything going right, it might not be enough to win the Sun Belt title, but Franchione knows how to do big things with rising programs and should make this a more interesting season.

What to watch for on offense: Passing game, passing game, passing game. The running attack was expected to be fantastic last year with several excellent prospects working in a back-friendly offense, but the results were mixed. Part of the reason was the inconsistent play of the line, and part of the reason was that no one believed the Bobcats could do anything to throw the ball. Tyler Jones doesn't have to throw for 300 yards a game, but he has to connect on a big play once in a while to loosen things up a bit. When the passing game worked, like it did when Jones connected on 19-of-23 passes for 228 yards and two scores against Idaho, everything was fine. When the air show averaged under five yards per throw, everything stalled. The receivers have to hit home runs, and Jones can't throw picks. If that happens, considering the passing game came up with just 1,857 yards last season, watch out.

What to watch for on defense: Find defensive linemen who can play. Now. The linebacking corps has the potential to be the best in the Sun Belt with Michael Orakpo and David Mayo two fantastic hitters in the 4-2-5 alignment, and the secondary will come around with good-looking new guys working around CB Craig Mager and S Colby Targum, but the defensive front has to come up with four new starters with two sophomores likely to work inside and two senior on the outside. The Bobcat run defense was fantastic last season allowing just 147 yards per game even though there weren't a ton of plays behind the line and the pass rush was mediocre. This isn't a massive line, and there needs to be a good rotation early on.

The team will be far better if… the offense can move the ball. Time of possession wasn't an issue, but the offense just didn't come up with enough third down plays and didn't crank up enough first downs with just 193 – that's not a lot. The offense was inconsistent with several new parts trying to figure out what they were doing, and when it stalled and didn't come up with first downs, nothing worked. TXST only came up with more than 20 first downs twice, both wins, and failed to come up with 15 in four games. By apples-and-oranges comparison, Auburn generated 334 first downs and had 20 or more in 11 games. Sun Belt star Arkansas State generated 20 or more nine times.

The Schedule: The Bobcats have to own San Marcos. Out of the six home games, two come right away in the first two games against Prairie View A&M and Navy, meaning six of the last ten games are on the road including a rough finishing kick of four in the last six. Fortunately, good-looking Sun Belt teams Georgia Southern, Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State are all at home, and the conference road games aren't that awful going to ULM, New Mexico State and Georgia State to go along with a tough date with South Alabama. Going on the road to face Illinois and Tulsa in non-conference play isn't awful, and if the Bobcats can come up with just one win against either of those two or Navy, it'll be a plus.

Best offensive player: Junior RB Robert Lowe. The Bobcats were expected to use a running back by committee approach with several excellent options, but it turned out to be Lowe who handled most of the workload. There are just as many good backs this season with Terrance Franks and Chris Nutall two good runners who can come up with big plays and handle the work from time to time, but it's Lowe's ground game to run. The junior only ran the ball 164 times, and while he doesn't need to be a workhorse, he should be the star when the offense is working.

Best defensive player: Senior LB Michael Orakpo. It's not often a team loses its top-tackling linebacker and might be a bit better, but even with Damion McMiller and his 94 tackles done, the Bobcats will be more than fine with great-hitter David Mayo and all-around playmaker Michael Orakpo controlling the ground game. Orakpo came in from Colorado State after a controversial dismissal, and he turned into the team's most dangerous pass rusher right away. Combining with Mayo, Orakpo should put up huge numbers for what could be the Sun Belt's best linebacking duo.

Key players to a successful season: Sophomore DTs Darius Hood and Dallas McClarty. If the run defense is going to repeat the success of last season, the defensive front has to keep things clean so the tremendous running backs can roam free and make things happen. However, there's almost no size whatsoever up front outside of Hood and McClarty, who each check in at a squatty 6-1 and 280 pounds. The Bobcats rely on quickness and athleticism up front, but these two have to be tough and nasty.

The season will be a success if ... TXST wins seven games. There are too many concerns and not enough depth to win the Sun Belt title, but if the whole idea is to keep improving, winning one more game than 2013 would be a major positive. It won't be easy, and it'll require a few upsets to do it, but if the Bobcats can beat all the awful teams in the Sun Belt, and shock a few of the good ones, it's possible. This has to become a team that everyone else has to worry about, so getting better as the season goes on is a must.

Key game: Oct. 14 vs Louisiana-Lafayette. If everything goes according to form, Texas State should whack Prairie View A&M and Idaho, and should lose at least two of the three games against Navy, at Illinois and at Tulsa. If there's any hope of coming up with a winning season, and any hope of generating any sort of a Sun Belt buzz, the showdown with the loaded Ragin' Cajuns will be vital. With three of the next four games on the road, it could be a rough season if the Bobcats can't pull off what would be the most important win in the Coach Fran era.

2013 Fun Stats:
- Time of Possession: Texas State 31:54 – Opponents 28:06
- Average Passing Yards Per Game: Opponents 249.2 – Texas State 154.8
- 4th Down Conversions: Texas State 11-of-21 (52%) – Opponents 9-of-30 (30%)

- 2014 Texas State Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players